The beginning of a new dawn

The recent recession has forced many in our industry to make some difficult decisions. Although there are continuing cost pressures and consolidation in the market, many would say the worst is now over. However, the recent Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) brought a further wave of depression to some in the industry, with the prospect of most government departments and agencies having to look at budget cuts of around 20% over the next four years.

As buildings and facilities account for a major proportion of most departmental and agency budgets, many believed the future was looking decidedly bleak for public sector building services and facilities management. I disagree. The CSR cuts were largely expected and many forward looking managers had already been planning and reviewing ways to make the anticipated cuts. One of the key routes identified to meet these cost reductions was through outsourcing. As a company we have since received a significant number of enquiries for outsourcing building and FM services within the public sector.

In choosing this step, government departments need to be aware that they are entering a highly competitive market, with a number of key operators keen to secure work at any cost. The specification produced needs to be robust and comprehensive in order to avoid receiving a wide range of prices. As always when buying on price, further care needs to be taken to ensure that a quality delivery is maintained. If either the specification or the service level agreements are not sufficiently detailed, problems will begin to occur early during the contract period. Those providers that have bought contracts will also have bought themselves their own future problems. The temptation in lean times to make price the predominant selection criteria, will inevitably lead to service quality issues, and ironically, will lead to increased costs in the mid-term.

Apart from cost pressures and consolidation, other issues facing the industry include the constant drive for technology, the new carbon tax, and energy efficiency.

Technology will be a major contributor to efficiency in building services and FM, and in efficiently delivering these services. Advancements in off-site monitoring, workflow systems, remote working and computer aided facilities management (CAFM) will all have a significant impact upon service delivery, and these changes will continue to add value.

The change of the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) from a recycling fund into what is in essence a carbon tax provides an exciting opportunity for us and our customers to bring energy to the fore of strategic thinking.

For our customers, generating revenue from existing assets as well as minimising consumption becomes a key activity. For example, how do you build standby generation into energy contracts to minimise expenditure whilst managing risk? Resolving this dilemma can generate six figure savings for large customers. Or how do you use space to generate electricity and hence reduce your carbon footprint? Once again, with the correct advice, customers can make significant savings and additionally gain from government incentives.

Many employees want to be involved in reducing the impact of their company’s activities on the environment. As a company we are integrating social networking tools into our carbon management programmes to empower both our employees and those of our customers, to drive change.

Developing deeper relationships with customers has led to combined activities including shared environmental exhibitions and engaging employees in training programmes that highlight potential savings both at home and work.

Engagement with our customers at this strategic level also builds shared objectives that when acted on together, seek to mitigate the effects of this tax and provide environmental benefit to us all.

Norland has continued to thrive in the current economic climate. Training and development are also deeply embedded within our core behaviours, ensuring our people continue to grow to meet the ever changing needs in our market space. Our flexible approach to service delivery allows us to meet the changes in our sector and ensure that as an organisation we are actively embracing the beginning of a new dawn.

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